|Audi Sport celebrated a one-two win at the first U.S. event of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. At the California 8 Hours, Pierre Kaffer, Kelvin van der Linde and Markus Winkelhock in the Audi R8 LMS from Audi Sport Team Magnus crossed the finish line with a 2.488-second advantage in front of the sister car from Audi Sport Team Land.
“Sincere congratulations to our winners, Pierre Kaffer, Kelvin van der Linde and Markus Winkelhock. Following Audi Sport’s victory in the second race, we’ve now also won the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge,” said Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “With this latest triumph, we’re continuing a successful tradition on the legendary track at Laguna Seca where we’ve previously celebrated eight victories with the Audi R8 LMP sports car. Just one week after its victory in the Petit Le Mans race, our Audi R8 LMS GT sports car has won a second endurance race in North America. Additionally, we have been successful in the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and at Spa in this fantastic endurance racing season: an absolutely amazing track record.”
In the final stages, Kelvin van der Linde reduced the gap to the leading Audi Sport Team Land R8 LMS and fought a gripping duel with Christopher Mies. Both Audi campaigners were often only separated by fractions of a second. 20 minutes before the end, van der Linde finally passed the German. Following his success in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, the young South African celebrated his second important endurance racing triumph with Audi Sport.
|“I’m super-happy. We fought hard because the Land Audi was incredibly strong,” said van der Linde who at the age 21 is the youngest of the nine Audi campaigners. “A sincere thank you to Audi Sport and the Magnus Racing squad that gave us a tremendous car. This was my first race in the United States. After my brother, Sheldon, won with Audi in the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta last weekend, the pressure on me was particularly high.”
The factory-backed R8 LMS from Audi Sport Team Land, with drivers Connor De Phillippi, Christopher Haase and Christopher Mies, had started from pole position, taken the top spot and defended it up until 20 minutes before the end. In extremely hot and dry conditions on the challenging tradition-steeped 3.6-kilometer track, three Audi R8 LMS cars were the front runners much of the time. Following contact with the sister car from Audi Sport Team Land and a subsequent off-track excursion of both GT3 sports cars, the privately fielded R8 LMS from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT lost third place at the beginning of the race’s final hour. Jake Dennis, Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonhard finished the U.S. debut of the Belgian Audi customer team in sixth place.